Ragnar Frisch

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Ragnar Frisch
Uio frisch 2006 0025.jpg
Ragnar Anton Kittil Frisch

(1895-03-03)3 March 1895
Died31 January 1973(1973-01-31) (aged 77)
Nationality Norway
Alma mater University of Oslo
Known for Econometrics
Production theory
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1969)
Scientific career
Fields Economics
Institutions University of Oslo
Doctoral students Olav Reiersøl
Influenced Trygve Haavelmo

Ragnar Anton Kittil Frisch (3 March 1895 – 31 January 1973) was a Norwegian economist and the co-recipient of the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969 (with Jan Tinbergen). He is known for being one of the founders of the discipline of econometrics, and for coining the widely used term pair macroeconomics/microeconomics in 1933.

Norway Country in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northwestern Europe whose territory comprises of the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

Economist professional in the social science discipline of economics

An economist is a practitioner in the social science discipline of economics.

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics, is an award for outstanding contributions to the field of economics, and generally regarded as the most prestigious award for that field. The award's official name is The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.


Frisch was appointed by the King-in-Council as Professor of Economics and Statistics at the Faculty of Law, The Royal Frederick University in 1931. He served as the Dean of the Faculty of Law 1942–1943. Today, the Frisch Centre at the University of Oslo is named in his honour. [1]


The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of approving orders, in the presence of the country's executive council.


Family and education

Ragnar Frisch's father, Anton Frisch (1865-1928), goldsmith in Oslo, and a member of the Frisch family of silver miners and goldsmiths Anton Frisch (1865-1928).jpg
Ragnar Frisch's father, Anton Frisch (1865–1928), goldsmith in Oslo, and a member of the Frisch family of silver miners and goldsmiths

Ragnar Frisch [2] was born on 3 March 1895 in Christiania as the son of gold- and silversmith Anton Frisch and Ragna Fredrikke Frisch (née Kittilsen). The Frisch family had emigrated from Germany to Kongsberg in Norway in the 17th century and his ancestors had worked for the Kongsberg Silver Mines for generations; [3] Ragnar's grandfather Antonius Frisch had become a goldsmith in Christiania in 1856. His family had thus worked with precious metals like silver and gold for at least 300 years.

Oslo Capital of Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city functioned as a co-official capital during the 1814 to 1905 Union between Sweden and Norway. In 1877, the city's name was respelled Kristiania in accordance with an official spelling reform – a change that was taken over by the municipal authorities only in 1897. In 1925 the city, after incorporating the village retaining its former name, was renamed Oslo.

Goldsmith metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals

A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Historically, goldsmiths also have made silverware, platters, goblets, decorative and serviceable utensils, ceremonial or religious items, and rarely using Kintsugi, but the rising prices of precious metals have curtailed the making of such items to a large degree.

Silversmith craftsperson who makes objects from silver or gold

A silversmith is a metalworker who crafts objects from silver. The terms silversmith and goldsmith are not exactly synonyms as the techniques, training, history, and guilds are or were largely the same but the end product may vary greatly as may the scale of objects created.

Being expected to continue his family business, Frisch became an apprentice in the David Andersen workshop in Oslo. However at his mother's advice, while doing his apprenticeship Frisch also started studying at the Royal Frederick University. His chosen topic was economics, as it seemed to be "the shortest and easiest study" available at the university, [2] and passed his degree in 1919. In 1920 he also passed his handicraftsman tests and became a partner in his father's workshop.

Apprenticeship System of employment

An apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study. Apprenticeships can also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies. Apprenticeship lengths vary significantly across sectors, professions, roles and cultures. People who successfully complete an apprenticeship in some cases can reach the "journeyman" or professional certification level of competence. In others can be offered a permanent job at the company that provided the placement. Although the formal boundaries and terminology of the apprentice/journeyman/master system often do not extend outside guilds and trade unions, the concept of on-the-job training leading to competence over a period of years is found in any field of skilled labor.

Early career and further education

In 1921 Frisch received a fellowship from the university which enabled him to spend three years studying economics and mathematics in France and England. After his return to Norway, in 1923, although the family's business was having difficulties, he continued his scientific activity, believing that research, not jewellery, was his real calling. [4] He published a few papers about probability theory, started teaching at the University of Oslo during 1925 and, in 1926, he obtained the Dr. Philos. degree with a thesis in mathematical statistics.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with probability. Although there are several different probability interpretations, probability theory treats the concept in a rigorous mathematical manner by expressing it through a set of axioms. Typically these axioms formalise probability in terms of a probability space, which assigns a measure taking values between 0 and 1, termed the probability measure, to a set of outcomes called the sample space. Any specified subset of these outcomes is called an event.

Also in 1926, Frisch published an article [5] outlining his view that economics should follow the same path towards theoretical and empirical quantization that other sciences, especially physics, had followed. During the same year, he published his seminal article "Sur un problème d'économie pure" starting the implementation of his own quantization programme. The article offered theoretical axiomatizations which result in a precise specification of both ordinal and cardinal utility, followed by an empirical estimation of the cardinal specification. Frisch also started lecturing a course on production theory, introducing a mathematization of the subject.

In economics, an ordinal utility function is a function representing the preferences of an agent on an ordinal scale. Ordinal utility theory claims that it is only meaningful to ask which option is better than the other, but it is meaningless to ask how much better it is or how good it is. All of the theory of consumer decision-making under conditions of certainty can be, and typically is, expressed in terms of ordinal utility.

Cardinal utility

In economics, a cardinal utility function or scale is a utility index that preserves preference orderings uniquely up to positive affine transformations. Two utility indices are related by an affine transformation if for the value of one index u, occurring at any quantity of the goods bundle being evaluated, the corresponding value of the other index v satisfies a relationship of the form

Frisch received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to visit the United States in 1927. There, seeking other economists interested in the new mathematical and statistical approaches to economics, he associated with Irving Fisher, Wesley Clair Mitchell, Allyn Young and Henry Schultz. He wrote a paper analyzing the role of investment in explaining economic fluctuations. Wesley Mitchell, who had just written a book on business cycles, popularized Frisch's paper which was introducing new advanced methods. [4]

Later career

Although his fellowship was extended to travel to Italy and France, the next year Frisch had to return to Norway because of his father's death. He spent one year to modernize and recapitalize his family's workshop by selling family assets and to find a jeweller to manage the business for him. Then he resumed academic work, in 1928 being appointed Associate Professor of statistics and economics at the Oslo University. During 1927 and 1928 Frisch published a series of articles on the statistics of time series. In 1929 he published his first important essay on econometric methodology, "Correlation and scatter in statistical variables", [6] followed in the same year by "Statics and dynamics in economic theory", which introduced dynamics in economic analysis. [7]

Frisch became a full Professor at the university in 1931. He also founded at the university the Rockefeller-funded Institute of Economics in 1932 and became its Director of Research.

Ragnar Frisch received the Antonio Feltrinelli prize from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in 1961 and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969 (awarded jointly with Jan Tinbergen) for "having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes". [8]

During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany Frisch was imprisoned in Bredtveit concentration camp from 17 October 1943, then in Berg concentration camp from 22 November 1943, then in Grini detention camp from 9 December 1943 to 8 October 1944. [9]


Frisch married Marie Smedal in 1920 and they had a daughter, Ragna (b. 1938 [10] ). His granddaughter, Nadia Hasnaoui (Ragna's child), became a Norwegian television performer. After his first wife died in 1952, he remarried in 1953 with childhood friend Astrid Johannessen. [2] who died in 1980.


Frisch was one of the founders of economics as a modern science. He made a number of significant advances in the field of economics and coined a number of new words including econometrics and macroeconomics. His 1926 paper on consumer theory helped set up Neo-Walrasian research. He formalized production theory (1965).

In econometrics he worked on time series (1927) and linear regression analysis (1934). With Frederick V. Waugh, he introduced the celebrated Frisch–Waugh theorem ( Econometrica 1933) (sometimes referred to as the Frisch–Waugh–Lovell theorem). In oligopoly theory he developed the conjectural variation approach. Frisch also is credited with introducing the term "model" in its modern economic sense by Paul Samuelson, based on a 1930 Yale University lecture. [11]

His 1933 work on impulse-propagation business cycles became one of the principles of modern New Classical business cycle theory. He also helped introduce econometric modeling to government economic planning and accounting.

He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society and editor of Econometrica for over twenty years. The Frisch Medal, so named in his honor, is given every two years for the best paper published in the aforementioned Econometrica in the previous five years.

Frisch's most important hobby was bee-keeping, for which Frisch performed genetic studies.

Selected publications

There is a bibliography of Frisch's writings up to 1960 in

and there is a collection of selected essays

Related Research Articles

Econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic data in order to give empirical content to economic relationships. More precisely, it is "the quantitative analysis of actual economic phenomena based on the concurrent development of theory and observation, related by appropriate methods of inference". An introductory economics textbook describes econometrics as allowing economists "to sift through mountains of data to extract simple relationships". The first known use of the term "econometrics" was by Polish economist Paweł Ciompa in 1910. Jan Tinbergen is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of econometrics. Ragnar Frisch is credited with coining the term in the sense in which it is used today.

Jan Tinbergen Dutch economist

Jan Tinbergen was an important Dutch economist. He was awarded the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969, which he shared with Ragnar Frisch for having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th century and one of the founding fathers of econometrics. It has been argued that the development of the first macroeconometric models, the solution of the identification problem, and the understanding of dynamic models are his three most important legacies to econometrics. Tinbergen was a founding trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. In 1945, he founded the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) and was the agency's first director.

Econometrica is a peer-reviewed academic journal of economics, publishing articles in many areas of economics, especially econometrics. It is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Econometric Society. The current editor-in-chief is Joel Sobel.

Clive Granger British Economist

Sir Clive William John Granger was a British econometrician known for his contributions to non-linear time series. He taught in Britain, at the University of Nottingham and in the United States, at the University of California, San Diego. In 2003, Granger was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, in recognition of the contributions that he and his co-winner, Robert F. Engle, had made to the analysis of time series data. This work fundamentally changed the way in which economists analyse financial and macroeconomic data. Sir Clive Granger often refers to his time at HPH Claymore which he claims to be one of his main sources of inspiration, knowledge and bravery.

Trygve Haavelmo Norwegian economist and econometrician

Trygve Magnus Haavelmo, born in Skedsmo, Norway, was an economist whose research interests centered on econometrics. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1989.

Jan Mossin (1936–1987) was a Norwegian economist. Born in Oslo, he graduated with a siv.øk. degree from the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in 1959. After a couple of years in business, he started his PhD studies in the spring semester of 1962 at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ingvar Brynhjulf Wedervang was a Norwegian economist and statistician.

The Econometric Society is an international society of academic economists interested in applying statistical tools to their field. It is an independent organization with no connections to societies of professional mathematicians or statisticians. It was founded on December 29, 1930, at the Stalton Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. As of 2014, there are about 700 Elected Fellows of the Econometric Society, making it one of the most prevalent research affiliations.

In econometrics, the Frisch–Waugh–Lovell (FWL) theorem is named after the econometricians Ragnar Frisch, Frederick V. Waugh, and Michael C. Lovell.

Peter Charles Bonest Phillips is an econometrician. Since 1979 he has been Professor of Economics and Statistics at Yale University. He also holds positions at the University of Auckland, Singapore Management University and the University of Southampton. He is currently the co-director of Center for Financial Econometrics of Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics at Singapore Management University and is an adjunct professor of econometrics at the University of Southampton.

Donald Wilfrid Kao Andrews is a Canadian economist. He is the Tjalling Koopmans Professor of Economics at the Cowles Foundation, Yale University. Born in Vancouver, he received his B.A. in 1977 at the University of British Columbia, his M.A. in 1980 in statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in economics in 1982 also from the University of California, Berkeley.

Christopher A. Sims American time-series statistician and econometrician, developer of vector auto-regressive models, Bayesian statistician, President of the Econometric Society, 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize

Christopher Albert "Chris" Sims is an American econometrician and macroeconomist. He is currently the John J.F. Sherrerd '52 University Professor of Economics at Princeton University. Together with Thomas Sargent, he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2011. The award cited their "empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy".

The Frisch Medal is an award in economics given by the Econometric Society. It is awarded every two years for empirical or theoretical applied research published in Econometrica during the previous five years. The award was named in honor of Ragnar Frisch, first co-recipient of the Nobel prize in economics and editor of Econometrica from 1933 to 1954. In the opinion of Rich Jensen, Gilbert F. Schaefer Professor of Economics and chairperson of the Department of Economics of the University of Notre Dame, "The Frisch medal is not only one of the top three prizes in the field of economics, but also the most prestigious 'best article' award in the profession". Five Frisch medal winners have also won the Nobel Prize.

Richard Blundell British economist

Sir Richard William Blundell CBE FBA is a British economist and econometrician.

Sir David Forbes Hendry, FBA CStat is a British econometrician, currently a professor of economics and from 2001–2007 was head of the Economics Department at the University of Oxford. He is also a professorial fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.

Konstantinos "Costas" Meghir is a Greek/British economist. He studied at the University of Manchester where he graduated with a Ph.D. in 1985, following an MA in economics in 1980 and a BA in Economics and Econometrics in 1979. In 1997 he was awarded the Bodosakis foundation prize and in 2000 he was awarded the “Ragnar Frisch Medal” for his article “Estimating Labour Supply Responses using Tax Reforms”.

Henry Schultz was an American economist, statistician, and one of the founders of econometrics. Paul Samuelson named Schultz as one of the several "American saints in economics" born after 1860.

Odd Aukrust Norwegian economist

Odd Aukrust was a Norwegian economist.

Frisch family

Frisch is a Norwegian family of German origin, of which many members were associated with the Kongsberg Silver Mines for several centuries since the 17th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, family members were noted as goldsmiths in Oslo. Its most famous member is Ragnar Frisch, the first Nobel laureate in economics.

Charles Frederick Roos was an American economist who made contributions to mathematical economics. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society together with American economist Irving Fisher and Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch in 1930. He served as Secretary-Treasurer during the first year of the Society and was elected as President in 1948. He was director of research of the Cowles Commission from September 1934 to January 1937.


  1. "Forside - Frischsenteret".
  2. 1 2 3 Frisch, Ragnar, "Autobiography", published in Nobel Lectures, Economics 1969–1980, Editor Assar Lindbeck, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992
  3. Huhnhäuser, Alfred (1944). Die deutsche Einwanderung in Kongsberg. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Deutschtums in Norwegen. Oslo.
  4. 1 2 Olav Bjerkholt (2000), "A turning point in the development of Norwegian economics – the establishment of the University Institute of Economics in 1932". Memorandum No 36/2000, University of Oslo
  5. "Quantitative formulation of the laws of economic theory" (see Selected Publications)
  6. J. W. (1931). "Frisch (Ragnar): Correlation and Scatter in Statistical Variables". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 94 (1): 95–98. JSTOR   2341822.
  7. See Selected Publications
  8. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1969
  9. Ottosen, Kristian, ed. (2004). Nordmenn i fangenskap 1940–1945 (in Norwegian) (2nd ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. p. 226. ISBN   978-82-15-00288-0.
  10. Bjerkholt, Olav. "Ragnar Frisch 1895-1995" (PDF). Statistics Norway Research Department.
  11. Bjerkholt, Olav (September 2014). "Ragnar Frisch and the Postwar Norwegian Economy: A Critical Comment on Sæther and Eriksen" (PDF). Econ Journal Watch. 11 (3): 297–312. Retrieved November 8, 2014.

Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by
Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo
Succeeded by
New creation Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Served alongside: Jan Tinbergen
Succeeded by
Paul A. Samuelson